Luxury train on Sikh pilgrimage across India sold out

By Jaideep Sarin, IANS,

Chandigarh : A unique pilgrimage of Sikh shrines across India on board the Deccan Odyssey luxury train is all sold out. Never mind if the nine-day journey costs a minimum of Rs.210,000 ($4,665) per person.

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Titled ‘A spiritual journey to the Guru’s abode’ on the Deccan Odyssey, all 80 seats for the first trip of the train, which begins from Delhi Wednesday, are taken.

The journey is not only religious in nature. It will have the passengers celebrate New Year’s Day at the Golden Temple, the holiest of Sikh shrines, in Amritsar. They will also be taken to historical and tourist destinations in Delhi, Amritsar, Jaipur, Agra and Patna.

“This is an exclusive, once in a lifetime journey. All 80 seats are sold out. We have a mix of passengers from the US, Canada, Germany, France and a few from India also. People on board will begin their new year at the Golden Temple complex,” Sajive Trehan, CEO of The Luxury Holidays, told IANS.

The passengers aboard the first journey of the train to the five Sikh ‘Takhts’ – temporal seats – will also include a Bulgarian couple who are interested in the Sikh religion.

“The age profile of the people travelling with us is a mixed one. We have a wide range – from kids to elders. Most of the passengers are NRIs,” Trehan said.

“The journey will cost each person from Rs.210,000 to Rs.450,000 ($10,000). This includes everything – 5-star stay, food, travel, airfare, sightseeing, guides and much more,” he added.

The train will not only have traditional artists performing on board during different legs of the journey but Sikh hymn singers, Raagis as they are called, will also perform ‘kirtans’ at the conference hall of the train which will be converted for this purpose.

The journey and stay of the passengers will be mostly be on the luxury train. Only the section between Mumbai and Patna and the return from Patna to Delhi will be by air.

From Delhi, the train will first embark on an overnight journey to Takht Keshgarh Sahib – the birthplace of the Khalsa Panth sect. It was founded by the 10th Sikh Guru Gobind Singh in April 1699 at Anandpur Sahib, some 100 km from Chandigarh. It will be followed by a visit to a nearby shrine at Kiratpur Sahib.

After that, the train will leave for Amritsar to reach the Sikh holy city Dec 31.

The passengers will spend the day at Harmandar Sahib – popularly called the Golden Temple, the sanctum sanctorum, and visit the Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of the Sikh religion.

The travellers will be taken around Amritsar, including the historic Jallianwala Bagh, where British soldiers massacred hundreds of Indian protestors April 13, 1919, and the Attari-Wagah border for the retreat ceremony. They will also partake of ‘langar’ or community meal inside the shrine complex.

After the New Year celebration at the Golden Temple, the visitors will witness the ‘Pratham Vela’ – the first sight of the Sikh holy book, Granth Sahib. On Jan 1, the train will move towards another Sikh shrine, Takht Damdama Sahib, at Talwandi Sabo near Bathinda, 250 km from here.

The train will then reach Jaipur Jan 2 where the passengers will go sightseeing and then move to Agra to see the 17th century monument to love – the Taj Mahal. The train will then move to Nanded town in Maharashtra to visit another Sikh shrine, Takht Hazoor Sahib, and subsequently move to Mumbai.

After spending a day in Mumbai, the visitors will fly to Patna to visit the Takht Patna Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Gobind Singh. The journey will end in New Delhi after the visitors fly back from Patna.

And in case you want to take this journey too, there is some good news. The organisers have already planned out another such journey in March 2011.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at [email protected])